minutes per mile blog

marathon #8: I saw the wall, but I didn’t hit it. {richmond marathon review}

Over the weekend, Anthony and I adventured around the DC/MD/VA area — with a very important stop for the Richmond Marathon! On Friday (after our flight of beers at Short Pump) we headed over to the expo to pick up my bib and look at 1,000,000 pieces of running merchandise._DSC0012We were in and out pretty quickly — we had a dinner to get to!deco_restaurant_richmond_DSC0015We went to Deco when we were in Richmond two years ago for Anthony’s half marathon. I figured if Anthony PR’ed off a bowl of their pasta, maybe I could too ;).

We started off with some calamari and arancini. Arancini is a giant fried ball of rice, AKA the best invention ever.deco_restaurant_richmond_DSC0018For my main dish, I went with a simply delicious mountain of penne in tomato sauce. The pasta was cooked perfectly and the shaved mozzerella was super fresh. So good! Anthony claimed that Deco is the best Italian restaurant he’s EVER been to in the US. It’s a big deal.deco_restaurant_richmond_DSC0020Anthony and I split our entrees to get this best of both worlds. His salmon was swimming in a pool of olive oil and it was wonderful.deco_restaurant_richmond_DSC0021Dessert might have happened.deco_restaurant_richmond_DSC0026… and we ordered a bottle of wine. I was determined to drink no more than two glasses, so Anthony took one for the team and finished off the rest. That’s a six-ounce pour, right?_DSC0024Flash forward through a semi-sleepless night (race nerves!) and here we are at the freezing start line.

Race day was even colder than I expected (24 degrees), so I did something I would never recommend: Trying something new on race day. I had bought a thick running jacket at Athleta during my pre-race shopping spree the day before, and though I hadn’t planned on wearing it for the marathon I decided at the last minute to wear it instead of the lighter jacket I’d packed. Luckily, it ended up working out just fine.

PS, I hope you like my vest! I got it at Goodwill for $5 and ditched it right before the race started.IMG_5453And then we were off. I didn’t take any photos during the race because my hands were paralyzed under two pairs of gloves and a pair of mittens. So here’s a really long block of text. Feel free to read it if you like geeking out about running, or feel free to scroll down to the giant cheeseburger at the end of this post.

  • Miles 0-10: Awesome. I felt really good during the first ten miles of the race, which were mostly flat with a few downhills too. The route during this portion of the race was gorgeous, too — we wound along some tree-lined back roads along the river for a while. Leaves were falling, the sun was shining, and I even made a race buddy! This guy and I ran about six miles side by side until a hill came at mile 10. He was pushing the pace a liiiiiittttle past my comfort zone (closer to 7:35 than 7:45), so I told him he might lose me after the hill. I was right!
  • Mile 10-15: Okay. We hit some rolling hills and my pace slowed a bit. I was cool with it since I knew I’d banked some extra minutes during my speedy start, though. The only MONSTER mile was mile 15, where we had to run across a nasty bridge that had terrible headwinds and was slightly uphill. After the race, everyone complained about mile 15. It sucked. I sort of lost confidence on that bridge when I saw my mile average sink and my face froze up from all the cold wind.
  • Mile 16-20: Pretty good. After the bridge, I regained my focus and just concentrated on staying in the 7:45-50 range. I knew I was still on track to PR, and as long as I could hold steady I’d be okay. The winds were still coming on strong at this point, but at least we had a couple of downhills to help us.
  • Miles 20-24: A struggle. Not like I expected them to be easy, of course. At this point I adjusted my pace goal and just aimed to stay under 8 minutes per mile. I knew I was still on track to PR. My legs — and especially my feet!!! — were starting to hurt pretty bad. I had a few flashbacks to when I hit the wall during a marathon a couple years ago, and told myself I wouldn’t let it happen again. A few negative thoughts were creeping into my head (and more than a few swear words creeping out of my mouth, haha), but I did my best to stay calm and stay positive. I adopted a little mantra for each mile: “6 easy miles,” “5 easy miles,” etc. and tried to pretend that I was simply going out for a new, fresh, easy jog after I passed each mile marker. It sort of worked? Ha.
  • Miles 24-26: I could definitely see “the wall” at this point, but was determined not to hit it. It felt like I was running barefoot on top of a bed of razors while someone was slowly shredding my hamstrings with a knife. So. Goal at this point was to just keep running. I knew that I had a solid 20 minutes to finish 2.2 miles, so even if I ran 9-minute miles I’d still PR. My goal during these last couple miles was to simply KEEP RUNNING. It was so hard but I did it! I wish I could say that I hit an endorphin high and picked it up for the last miles, but that’s just not true.
  • Last 0.2: Okay, I did pick it up a bit at this point, but that was only because the final bit of the race is straight downhill so there’s no way I could have gone any slower. So, that was nice.

And then I crossed the finish line!! Official time 3:25:04.IMG_5460And immediately burst into pain-happy tears like a crazy person. My whole body hurt so so soooooo bad, but at the same time I was in complete mental shock/bliss that I just ran a 3:25 marathon. I’d put 3:25 as my extreme goal, with 3:28-ish as my more reasonable goal. I was a bit stunned.

My splits tell this story in a much more to-the-point way:


After a shuffle/walk through all the bagels, bananas, and pizza (someone actually offered me a wheelchair and I was pretty close to saying yes…) I met Anthony and sort of collapsed into the grass and cried some more for a few minutes while I gave him a quick race recap. I was so happy to see him and just let alllll of the emotions out.

Then I stood up and took a beautiful photo for all of you, my wonderful readers:IMG_5458and a few final race notes:

  • Course was great (minus bridge of death at mile 15), not hilly and quite scenic in some spots. I’m not the best route scenery reviewer because I sort of blank out during the whole race and don’t remember much… so, that’s all I can say on that.
  • Crowd support was adequate. For being “the friendliest marathon” I expected a bit more cheer along the course, but then again I guess it was pretty cold out. The crowds definitely aren’t as solid as Boston or Marine Corps, but still pretty strong at the “party zones”!
  • Race logistics were easy. We found cheap parking and it was easy for me to find my corral etc. My pace range was never too congested along the way so that was nice.
  • Fuel stations were good. A few spots were short on volunteers, but I was able to grab water and/or Powerade at most of the stops along the way. I also took Gus that I brought at 0:50, 1:40, and 2:30 (only half of one at 2:30). I had a buttered bagel + coffee before the race. Seemed to work well for me!
  • Race tracking was the big downfall of Richmond this year. Apparently the runner tracker text message system failed completely and none of the spectators were able to track runners. Luckily Anthony made it to the finish to see me as I hit mile 26, but he almost missed me because he had no idea how I was doing during the race! Yikes.

Other than that, though, Richmond was pretty solid! I’d run it again, especially if the forecast was 10 degrees warmer :)

When we got to the hotel, Anthony took me on a little ride to our room.IMG_5462Since we our room was at the very end of a long hallway and we had 30 minutes to shower and check out, efficiency was key.IMG_5463After I took The Best Shower of My Life, we headed to Rock Bottom Brewery in Short Pump. Anthony was kind enough to drop me off in front of the restaurant while he parked the car. When I saw that the escalator to the restaurant entrance was out of order, my heart broke a little bit.IMG_5464But I made it up the steps because I knew beer was at the top._DSC0031And a burger.rock_bottom_brewery_short_pump_DSC0033I was still pretty shaky for the first hour after the race, but a shower and food fixed me right up!

And that’s a wrap! Marathon #8, you were pretty good to me.

  • Did you race this weekend? How’d it go?
  • Alcohol before a race:yay or nay?
  • Do you usually go for negative splits?

36 thoughts on “marathon #8: I saw the wall, but I didn’t hit it. {richmond marathon review}

  1. Did you race this weekend? How’d it go?
    I ran a race that sounds very familiar to yours…oh wait it was the same race! :) Ran a 3:05:05, not a PR and not my goal of sub 3:00 but loved every bit of another BQ and just being part of the marathon community!

    Alcohol before a race:yay or nay?
    ALWAYS :) Yes a beer the night before to calm the nerves. For. Sure.

    Do you usually go for negative splits?
    I’ve tried in each marathon but failed (5x) to run the second half faster than the first. I was close on my PR of 3:02:13, missed negative splits by a few seconds. Some day! (For half marathons I am able to).

    Great recap thanks for sharing!!! Congrats on the PR!!!

    • thanks! yes, i think a drink or two definitely helps settle race nerves. sounds like you had a good race, especially given the conditions! great attitude. hope you’re enjoying a recovery week!

  2. Great race ! Congratulations. I don’t drink for 2 days before an important race. I think it’s fine that you can enjoy wine the night before a marathon and run well.

  3. congrats!!! You are a beast!!!! I don’t know how you even function after running a race like that! I have run some half marathons and afterwards my stomach is a mess and I need to lay down for a long while. You=Hardcore!!!

    • haha i don’t know if i really was functioning! i would have loved a nap right after, but we had 30 minutes to get out of our hotel room :(

  4. Congratulations on an amazing race!!
    Alcohol before a race: nay, but definitely a yay to celebrate after
    I’m a negative split runner. I always go out a little slower and ease into it.

  5. Alcohol before a race = I don’t know anymore. It usually doesn’t affect me, especially if it is only one beer. BUT – NYC was a bit of a disaster in terms of hitting up the portapotties too many times. I’m not sure whether it was because I had a beer with dinner or because I wasn’t able to eat a bagel/bread item before I starting eating GU Gels. I’m going to say it was the lack of bread though – because nothing bad happened until I ate a GU gel (and no stomach cramps either!)

    AMAZING JOB!!!! I cannot imagine doing a 3:25 marathon (or even a 4:25 one yet, haha). I would totally be riding in the luggage cart too!

    • oh no, bathroom stops during a race are the worst!! it took me years to figure out the right nutrition game plan for me, so hang in there! bread is always a safe bet 😉

  6. Congrats Mary! You did awesome. I should try for negative splits but my marathon race plan has always been to gain time in the first half so if I slow in the second half I have time to give. This might be why I hit a wall though. I definitely am going to go about my marathon strategy differently going forward.

    • yes, that strategy is tempting but has definitely backfired on me before (and almost did this time, too!) i try to keep steady splits the whole way, but that can be tough if the elevation/weather profile changes over the course

  7. What an amazing race! I’m hoping to hit 3:25 at some point in the next few years (3:46 is my current PR) so you have now inspired me.

    I didn’t race this weekend but I have a 5K on Saturday, hoping to place in my AG!

    I don’t drink alcohol at all, ever, haha so definitely not before a race!

    I try to shoot for negative splits!

    • for my first marathon (2009), i came in right at 4 hours — so it’s definitely possible to improve! good luck in your 5k!

  8. Congrats! What an awesome time!

    I’m all for booze before a race. Beer=carb loading, no?

    I always have it in mind to negative split, but during marathons I usually just try to hang on during the last few miles. I don’t think I’ve successfully negative split during a race…ever.

  9. Mary you did amazing !! Way to tough it out and stay strong and fight the negative thoughts and cold weather. Was so great training with you and Anthony too all summer!! I tend to not drink alcohol a few days before the race because it affects how I feel but definetly like it Post race!!

  10. Congrats on such a great race!!

    Your recap made me want to train to run a marathon (I’ve only raced half marathons and 25ks)!

  11. Congratulations on what sounds like an awesome race!!! Way to put everything out on the course!!
    haha aww Anthony is so sweet for pushing you in the luggage cart!

  12. This is late but congratulations! I am so impressed at your ability to stay mentally strong and push through. Great work and enjoy the rest!